Not only was the first weekend of February loaded with a historic four top-10 matchups on the schedule, but with so many games involving top teams we are starting to get some clarity among the conference races after a wild Saturday. The rest of February we will all be paying more attention to Bracketology including the NCAA Tournament bubble, NET rankings, quadrants and all the important factors in the stretch run in college basketball.
We’re past the halfway mark of league play around the country, and time is beginning to run short for teams to prove they deserve at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.
So while there were three top-10 battles on Saturday, we were treated to several more undercard games involving squads fighting for their lives. Few teams needed to win more desperately on the loaded Saturday of college basketball action than Texas, which had lost four of six and had fallen to “First Four Out” territory in Jerry Palm’s NCAA Tournament Bracketology.
In a hostile environment at No. 25 TCU, the Longhorns delivered with 77-66 victory, closing on a 13-2 run to pick up their fourth Quad 1 win. Right there with them was Texas A&M, which had uncharacteristically dropped three home games entering an SEC showdown with Florida. The Aggies were among Palm’s “Last Four In” beginning the day and responded with a 67-66 win after trailing 40-34 at halftime.
It wasn’t all roses and daisies for teams from the Lone Star State as No. 4 Houston fell 78-65 at No. 8 Kansas. But there is no mystery over whether the Cougars will be dancing next month. Between the high-level showdowns and plethora of bubble battles, it was a day packed full of college basketball action.
Here are the winners and losers from the day.
Winner: Kansas remains king in Allen Fieldhouse
No. 8 Kansas was an underdog at home for just the second time ever under Bill Self as No. 4 Houston came to Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday, and the Jayhawksof the visiting Cougars in a 78-65 beatdown of their new Big 12 foes. The win moved Self and KU to 11-1 against AP top five opponents in Allen Fieldhouse and 19-1 when facing an opponent ranked higher than KU – including 16 straight wins dating back to 2006. – Boone
Loser: Indiana squanders chance to get back on track
Indiana missed a golden opportunity to get things back on track Saturday at home in a loss – no, no, a meltdown of epic proportions – inside Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers led by as many as 11 but completely folded in the second half, as Penn State outscored them 48-30 in the final 20 minutes to win 85-71.
It was a squandered chance to get a win after entering the day as losers of three of their last four. Worse, the loss came against a PSU team that did not have leading scorer Kanye Clary. Instead, despite Kel’El Ware turning in 25 points and 11 boards, the Nittany Lions beat IU inside Assembly Hall for the first time since 2014, bumping IU to 13-9 in what is quickly unraveling into a lost season for the Hoosiers. – Boone
Winner: UNC’s Ingram spikes Duke
Harrison Ingram is a junior forward for North Carolina. His sister, Lauren, is a freshman outside hitter for Duke’s volleyball team. Lauren made a good choice by wearing a UNC jersey to the rivalry showdown. Her brother put on a show with 21 points on a career-high five made 3-pointers as the No. 3 Tar Heels beat No. 7 Duke 93-84. Ingram is thriving in his first season since transferring from Stanford and helped push UNC’s edge in the ACC standings to two games with his performance. — Cobb
Loser: Iowa State runs out of time in loss to Baylor
The ending of No. 18 Baylor’s win vs. No. 12 Iowa State at Foster Pavilion was eventful, heartbreaking and thrilling all at the same time. After Iowa State got a defensive rebound off a missed free throw by Baylor (with no timeouts) and 2 seconds remaining, the game was stopped because the clock started early … which led to the Cyclones getting one more opportunity to win it.
That allowed Iowa State freshman Milan Momcilovic to bank in a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would’ve given his team the win … but it was ruled after video review that he didn’t get the shot off in time. Oh, and Baylor coach Scott Drew was ejected in the second half, which led to a 19-0 run by Iowa State. That run ultimately got them back in the game in the first place. Chaos! – Salerno
Loser: George Mason’s situational awareness
George Mason tied its game at UMass 65-65 on the road Saturday with 1.2 seconds remaining, only to commit the biggest brain fart of the day.
After the Patriots scored, one player appeared to be confused about the situation and score, and committed an intentional foul just before time expired instead of playing it out. The whoopsie sent UMass’ Rahsool Diggins to the line with less than one second remaining.
Diggins made one of his two free throws and sealed the win for the Minutemen 66-65. – Boone
One game after setting a career-high 20 points, freshman guard Stephon Castle set a new one with 21 in No. 1 UConn’s 77-64Castle’s emergence as a star only further solidifies the notion that the Huskies can repeat as national champions. Cam Spencer wasn’t too shabby, either. The veteran sharpshooters scored 17 of his 23 points after halftime as the Huskies pummeled the Red Storm 41-27 after the break. — Cobb
Winner: South Carolina’s Paris makes case for Coach of the Year
South Carolina is one of the stories of the year in college basketball. The Gamecocks continued their hot start to SEC play by knocking off Georgia 72-62. South Carolina is now one game behind Alabama for first place in the SEC with a 7-2 record. This is a team that won four (total!!) conference games last season in Lamont Paris’ first season at the helm. Paris deserves some serious consideration for National Coach of the Year because South Carolina (pending a disaster in the final month of the season) will be in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017 — when they went to the Final Four under coach Frank Martin. – Salerno
Winner: Ty-Laur Johnson helps snap Louisville’s losing skid
Year 2 of the Kenny Payne era at Louisville has been a disaster, but Saturday offered hope. Louisville guard Ty-Laur Johnson became the first player in its storied history to record at least 25 points and 10 assists. Johnson finished the night with 27 points, 11 assists and six rebounds in a 101-92 win over Florida State. The Cardinals had lost their last seven games and now sit in a tie with Notre Dame at the bottom of the ACC. – Salerno
Loser: TCU lets Texas off the hook (’em)
TCU’s student section showed up en masse with horns down shirts for Texas’ final visit to Schollmaier Arena as members of the Big 12. The No. 25 Horned Frogs rode the energy to an early 16-6 lead before Texas rallied for a 77-66 win to stop a two-game skid. The Longhorns entered as one of the “First Four Out” in Jerry Palm’s Bracketology. A fourth Quad 1 win should position them on the right side of the bubble as they head home to face Iowa State and West Virginia next week. Maybe it will cool some of the “horns down” hype for a bit, too. – Cobb
Winner: Tennessee’s supporting cast stars vs. Kentucky
Tennessee guard Zakai Zeigler played like a star against No. 10 Kentucky. The shortest player on the court delivered the best performance of his career after a rough stretch of games Others in the Vols starting lineup not named Dalton Knecht also contributed to the 103-92 win for No. 5 Tennessee. Jonas Aidoo finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season. Josiah-Jordan James matched Zeigler’s scoring effort with 26 points and Santiago Vescovi connected on 3-of-4 attempts from beyond the arc. Even though Knecht had his streak of 25+ points snapped at six games, the Vols showed their depth can give opposing teams problems. – Salerno
Winner: Memphis shocks Wichita State
Riding a four-game losing streak, Memphis looked destined to slide even further onto the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble when it trailed Wichita State by 14 with under eight minutes remaining. Then David Jones happened. The former DePaul and St. John’s wing has been magnificent for the Tigers all season and turned in another heroic effort, scoring 16 points in the final 7:39 to lead Memphis back for a 65-63 win. His pull-up jumper with 2.8 seconds left put the Tigers ahead and finally gave Memphis a chance to exhale after a miserable stretch of basketball. – Cobb
Loser: Clemson’s pain persists
Clemson’s last three losses have come by a combined five points. On Saturday the Tigers fell 66-65 to Virginia when Jack Clark’s potential game-winning 3-pointer bricked off the iron just before time expired. The Tigers did well to rally from a 12-point second half deficit but came up just short a week after their controversial one-point loss at Duke. Back on Jan. 16, they fell 93-90 in two overtimes against Georgia Tech. This team remains comfortably in the projected NCAA Tournament field for now. But at just 4-6 in ACC play, the Tigers are messing with mediocrity just as they have so often in recent years. — Cobb
Winner: Charlotte is shining in AAC
Charlotte is now 14-7 (8-1 AAC) and has won eight-straight conference games for the first time in program history after beating East Carolina 67-52. The 49ers were picked to finish 13th in their first season as AAC members, which was understandable given the circumstances. Head coach Ron Sanchez left the program in June for a spot on Virginia’s staff, giving Charlotte athletic director Mike Hill little choice but to name an interim leader from within the staff. He chose Aaron Fearne, a rare Australian in the college basketball coaching ranks. At this point, it feels like only a matter of time before Fearne lands the full-time gig as Charlotte positions itself to compete for a conference title. – Cobb
Winner: Vanderbilt wins battle of bad SEC teams
The month of January was not kind for the bottom of the SEC. Missouri and Vanderbilt combined to go 0-15 in conference play last month but the good news was someone had to win on Saturday. Vanderbilt star Era Manjon scored 17 points and closed the game out by hitting five free throws in the final 32 seconds to give his team a 68-61 win. Missouri dropped to 0-9 in SEC in Year 2 of the Dennis Gates era. The good (and bad news) is this is the only matchup of the season between the two schools. — Salerno
Loser: Michigan blows double-digit lead in fifth consecutive loss
Michigan extended its lead against Rutgers to 15 points with 17:03 remaining at home in the second half … and lost the game 69-59. The last month and a half has been a dumpster fire for Juwan Howard and company. The Wolverines have lost 10 of their last 11 and sit alone last place in the Big Ten with a 2-9 conference record. This is a new low in a lost cause of a season. After the game, Howard said “Maybe I should go to my walk-ons. I know they care.” — Salerno
Winner: Cincinnati gets a massive win
There were six Big 12 teams included in Jerry Palm’s Bracketology entering Saturday’s action. Cincinnati was not among them, despite standing at No. 35 in the NET. The reason? The Bearcats were just 2-5 in Quad 1 games entering their game at No. 15 Texas Tech. But after beating the Red Raiders 75-72, Cincy will find itself creeping closer to the right side of the bubble as the program seeks its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2019. — Cobb
Winner: Auburn finally has a Quad 1 win
At long last, No. 16 Auburn can stop hearing about its lack of a Quad 1 victory. The Tigers remedied the dubious distinction by throttling Ole Miss 91-77 behind a 56-point effort in the second half. Six players reached double figures for Bruce Pearl’s club, which shot an obscene 73.3% from the floor after halftime. — Cobb
Winner: Indiana State widens lead in MVC
Indiana State tightened its grasp on the Missouri Valley Conference with a huge 75-67 home win over Drake. The victory came behind Robbie Avila’s 20-point, 11-rebound outing for the Sycamores. Indiana State led by as many as 17 before blowing the lead late, but charged to the finish line on an 8-0 run to close out the visiting Bulldogs. Avila had 11 points, eight rebounds and a pair of blocks in the second half, and kickstarted the final push the Sycamores made in the last minute of regulation with a clutch 3-pointer from NBA range. — Boone
Loser: McNeese loses its winning streak
The nation’s longest winning streak came to an end at 14 games as McNeese fell 77-74 at Southeastern Louisiana. Coach Will Wade’s club is still well-positioned to earn the Southland Conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. But the distinction of college basketball’s longest winning streak now belongs to High Point, which won its 12th straight by knocking off Presbyterian 78-68. — Cobb